Integrated planning and managing of natural areas for tourism-related development

FRST Research Project (funded through CRESA - programme manager Julie Warren)


Details of Project:

Reseach Leader:
Ms Janet Gough
Research Team:
Nick Taylor, Julie Warren, Paul Blaschke, Marc Baily, Wayne Pihema
  • Evaluate existing approaches to planning and managing tourist related developments in natural areas; define an integrated model for application in multi-stakeholder management contexts (with a particular focus on Maori stakeholders), and pilot, evaluate and refine that model.
  • Contribute to the strategic objective of developing a "dynamic tourism industry which is environmentally, socially, culturally and economically sustainable". Provide direction for integration of these components and ways to manage sometimes competing requirements of tourism and recreation activities, cultural and amenity values, and the conservation of natural areas.
The research commenced in 2001. A Reference group of potential users from the tourism industry and government agencies was formed, and a full-time Maori researcher was employed (with CRESA) to assist in the development of tools and case studies.

In 2001-2 the research team conducted a wide ranging review of approaches and models developed both overseas and in New Zealand and undertook 50 interviews with people involved in planning and management in multi-stakeholder contexts around natural areas.
Findings from this phase are available in:

Integrated planning and management of tourism and related activities in natural areas - a review of tools and approaches (download pdf)

In 2002-3 the team selected and analysed a series of New Zealand short case studies to show how applications of these tools (approaches and models) worked in practice. Case studies included the Catlins, Doubtful Sound, Farewell Spit and Puponga Farm Park, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, Hauraki Gulf, the Hump Ridge Track and Tuatapere, Kaitorete Spit, Kapiti Island, Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, Kura Tawhiti, Lake Pearson, Loch Katrine, Milford Sound, Mount Bruce Wildlife Sanctuary, Aoraki/Mount Cook, North Head (Hauraki Gulf), Orakei - Whenua Rangatira, Pegasus Bay 4WD, Punakaiki, Kaikoura, Pupu Springs, Tongariro National Park, and Waitomo Caves. More details of these short case studies can be accessed in the kete website (above) under Resources.

Findings from this phase are available in:

Integrated tourism management: preliminary synthesis of case study findings (download pdf)

In 2003-4 and 2004-5 four major action-research studies were conducted; Great Barrier Island, the Tongariro Crossing, the Catlins area, and Whenua Rangatira o Orakei. Research in 2005-6 has concentrated on completing these studies and combining the information obtained to date into a kete or tool basket that can be used by individuals, communities and organisations seeking to develop tourism opportunities in natural areas. The kete concentrates on integrating ecological, economic, social and cultural factors in outdoor recreation, tourism planning and other related areas of natural resource management. The findings were presented to regional workshops in Auckland, Wellington and Invercargill in May 2006.
Findings from the Catlins case study are available in:

An approach to more integrated planning and management of tourism in natural areas: a case study of the Caltins in New Zealandís wild south east. Paper presented to the 12th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management, Vancouver 3-8 June, 2006, by Nick Taylor and Janet Gough (download pdf)

Findings from the Tongariro Crossing case study are available in the report;
Establishing Integrative Use Limits on the Tongariro Crossing, Tongariro National Park. Final Report. August 2007, by Paul Blaschke and Pauline Whitney. (download pdf)

Findings from the Great Barrier Island case study are available in the report
Great Barrier Island: a case for a participative approach to integrated destination management. 2006, by Julie Warren. (download pdf)

Other outputs from the Great Barrier Island website are available at

During the final year of the project (2006-7) the research team applied the approach defined in the kete to coastal and marine areas, to identify key issues involved in planning for tourism, and to explore the barriers and opportunities to utilising the integrating framework in foreshore and associated communities. This work led to further development of the kete (access above). Finally, a Symposium titled "Nature-based tourism: stepping up to the mark for sustainable management" was held in Akaroa on 13-14 September 2007.

Principal Findings:
Tourism in New Zealand relies heavily on nature-based resources, with consequent impacts on natural areas and host communities. This research programme developed an integrated approach for planning and management of tourism in and around natural areas, which includes considering social, cultural, environmental and economic impacts. The research programme contributed to the national strategic research objective of a "dynamic tourism industry which is environmentally, socially, culturally and economically sustainable". Key issues addressed in the research included the competing requirements of tourism and outdoor recreation activities, recognition of a finite capacity for some activities at some sites, and the need to assess impacts and monitor progress towards sustainability. An iterative, multi-method research approach fed findings from interviews, literature reviews, case studies and workshops into formulation of an integrated model that guided development of a web-based tool box. The research process identified a critical need to integrate the use of tools across different dimensions of sustainable management. Individually, tools are narrowly focused and miss the benefits of integration to address complex issues of environmental management. The kete website (accessed above) is designed to facilitate access to the full range of tools and to assist capacity building in support of their use.

The research identified a range of useful approaches to management of tourism development in and around natural areas. However, it has also shown that in many circumstances these approaches tend to be discipline based or specialist techniques - such as economic tools and instruments, land-use planning, ecological and social impact assessment, landscape analysis, community participation techniques and various approaches to outdoor recreation management. These tools are often applied in isolation. The development of the kete is seen as a mechanism for capacity building by demonstrating the links between the tools and how they can be applied in a more integrated manner.

A more specific finding is evidence of "hot spots" around the country where there are intense issues and concerns about rapidly expanding visitor activity in and around natural areas. Perhaps more than ecological impacts, social carrying capacity appears a key concern, and in some areas there is evidence of increasing host community resistance to more visitor-based activity.

A research overview is available in:

Recognising, planning for and managing limits to tourism development in natural areas. Paper presented at Taking Tourism to the Limits, a conference at Waikato University, December 2003. By Julie Warren, Paul Blaschke, Nick Taylor and Janet Gough. (download pdf)

Findings from the research were applied to the general issue of sustainability in New Zealand as reported in:
Paul Blaschke, Julie Warren, Nick Taylor, Janet Gough, Wayne Pihema, Marc Baily and Pauline Whitney (2006). Nature-based tourism: panacea for sustainable development in New Zealand regions? Background paper, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Review of Progress with Sustainable Development in New Zealand. Download at (

A discussion of impact assessment in an integrated approach is available in:
Nick Taylor, Janet Gough, Julie Warren, Paul Blaschke, Marc Baily (2007). Impact assessment as part of integrated planning and management of tourism in and around natural areas. Poster paper for the IAIA Conference, 2007 in Seoul (download pdf)

The research team welcomes contact and suggestions from people interested in this project. Contact Janet Gough